Nuisance Laws: Overview
Towns and cities across the nation, especially in Ohio, are increasingly enacting local nuisance ordinances that punish tenants and landlords for calling the police when there is an emergency at their home. These ordinances operate by categorizing a variety of behaviors – including criminal or disorderly conduct, and often explicitly including domestic violence – as nuisances. If a tenant calls the police when nuisance-classified issues are happening at their home, they can be punished, regardless of whether the tenant was victim to criminal activity, and regardless of whether the tenant was in legitimate fear or need. When this happens, the property owner is often issued a citation, forcing them to diminish the nuisance or face consequences.
To “diminish” these “nuisances,” many landlords evict tenants, refuse to renew their leases, or instruct them not to call 911. Thus, many victims of domestic violence and other crime, and individuals with disabilities are forced to prioritize calling 911 in a crisis or having a place to live. In this way, the laws discourage people from calling 911 in an emergency. Calling a suicide hotline, reporting domestic abuse, or notifying the police of a crime should not be cause for eviction. Nuisance ordinances not only force landlords and tenants to make unfair and dangerous choices, but they disproportionately target minorities and low-income populations. These counter-productive policies continue to fail and undermine public safety.